Rockets go 0-2 in another lost week; immediate future does not look great

James Harden might not be in uniform this week. Kevin C. Cox

The Rockets struggles continued in the second week if the NBA season, as they dropped both contests in an embarrassing fashion. Houston's problems weren't limited to the box score, as reigning MVP James Harden pulled up late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's contest with hamstring tightness. The Rockets are now 1-4, last in the Southwest Division, and 13th in the Western Conference.

Game Four: Rockets vs Utah Jazz (L, 100-89)

Houston entered its Tuesday game injury riddled and without starting point guard Chris Paul, who was serving out the second half of his two-game suspension. Harden would lead the charge as the Rockets jumped out to a 29-24 lead after one, but poor defense, a lights-out effort from Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, and an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance from guard Eric Gordon resulted in the Jazz outscoring the Rockets 28-15 in the second quarter. A sluggish pace and sloppy basketball would continue through most of the second half until Harden checked in in the fourth to key a late game run. Houston would trim the Jazz lead to within five, but a tweaked hamstring sent Harden to the locker room. With the air let out of the building, the Jazz pounced and cruised to a victory. Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, while Mitchell scorched Houston’s defense for 38.

Game Five: Rockets vs Los Angeles Clippers (L, 133-113)

Friday’s contest against the Clippers looked to be the one the Rockets would be able to use to get back on track. With Chris Paul returning from suspension and Carmelo Anthony slotted into the starting rotation the Rockets started off strong defensively, but a miserable offensive effort kept the Clippers in the lead. Carmelo Anthony’s brilliant season high 24 points weren’t nearly enough to combat the Rockets’ 38% team field goal percentage, and the Clippers exploited the Houston’s thin front court to run away with the victory. Former Rocket Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers off the bench with 30 points.

Takeaways and Notes:

Eric Gordon is off to a miserable start: Through five games, Gordon is 9-39 from three and has only converted 26-80 total field goals. For a team that was missing Chris Paul and is now without Harden, the Rockets need Gordon to step up and it simply hasn’t happened. He should eventually heat back up, but this slump couldn’t come at a worse time.

Reinforcements are on their way: Forward Marquese Chriss and Zhou Qi are expected back at practice early this week. Monday’s practice will be used to determine whether or not they’re ready to be reintegrated into the rotation in time for Tuesday’s contest against Portland. Harden should be back later in the week as well, but I expect the Rockets to exercise extreme caution with the face of the franchise.

Halloween might be eventful: If a Jimmy Butler trade happens anytime soon, there’s a good chance it could happen on Wednesday. The prevailing thought process is because the Rockets would be able to add recent trade acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss to any trade package at that point.

Looking ahead

The Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday before heading out on the road against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls on Friday and Saturday. With the current state of the Rockets as it is and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard leading the league with 33.8 points per game, it’s very hard to envision anything other than another blowout Tuesday. Brooklyn could be where the Rockets stop the bleeding and notch their second win, while Chicago looks like a toss up. Until the Rocket prove that the can stop their opponents from scoring in the interior, I just don’t see sunny days in the near future. I predict a 1-2 week.


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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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